Earlier this month, European right-to-repair activists sounded the alarm, warning that the model right-to-repair legislation that had been proceeding through the EU legislative process had been hijacked by lobbyists who had gutted its core protections and were poised to make repairs even harder in the EU.
But Europeans rallied, and now they seem to have the upper hand. Pressure groups like Germany's Schraube locker!? (Screwloose!?) have organised mass write-in campaigns and other ways of lobbying EU officials, to good effect. This week, they scored a victory over refrigerator design, securing an amendment to the EU's pending Eco Design and Energy Label Directives (where the right-to-repair rules are enshrined) that will require refrigerator manufacturers to design their appliances to be repairable with everyday tools, and to supply their customers with spare parts and manuals so they can keep their property in good working order.
It could be a model for many kinds of devices, a return to the Maker Manifesto's call for "screws not glue" and "user-replaceable parts."
At the vanguard of the movement are people from ex-Soviet states, where deprivation was the mother of innovation, so that thrifty, ingenious home repairs were the key to human thriving. This ethic is also key today, if we are to reduce our material consumption, carbon footprint, and complicity in the human rights abuses committed in the name of securing the conflict minerals in our devices.
It was a good year for it because the EU had planned to vote on changes to its Eco Design and Energy Label Directives. “This is a political issue,” she said. Then they started their petition, gathered signatures and submitted it to Germany’s Environmental Ministry. The Ministry rejected it. Undeterred, Schraube locker!? tracked the head of the Ministry down at a conference, scheduled a meeting, and got her tacit support of the petition.
Next, Schraube locker!? enlisted 500 supporters to tweet at Germany’s Economic Ministry demanding it take a position on the right-to-repair. “The Ministry answered one day afterwards,” Shyre said. Berlin’s Economic Ministry told Schraube locker!? it was pro-repair, but only when it made sense. When there were better, more environmentally friendly products available, consumers should purchase those. The politicians, again, encouraged recycling over repair and reuse.
Despite the pushback, Monday’s vote was still a win. Going forward, refrigerator manufacturers selling the appliances in Europe will have to make them easier to disassemble. Before, the products were often welded shut or glued together, making it hard to replace parts without destroying the appliance. It’s an important first step towards enshrining the right-to-repair in European law, and the first such legislation that will affect the entire EU.
Protesters Are Slowly Winning Electronics Right-to-Repair Battles in Europe [Matthew Gault/Motherboard]